It is always refreshing when we discover the elites competing within the upper echelons of our sport go through the same mental motivational issues as the rest of us from time to time.
Such was the case with England’s Chris Walker-Hebborn, who told the East Anglian Times that he seriously considered quitting swimming after a rather disappointing outing at the 2012 London Olympic Games. At those Games, the 24-year-old failed to make it out of the initial heats in both the 100 and 200 backstroke races. On the entire experience, Walker-Hebborn reminisced, “I don’t think I’ll ever get rid of that 2012 disappointment.”
It was in that post-2012 time frame that Walker-Hebborn took a good look at the journey between where he was and where he wanted to be as an athlete. “You’re in the pool at 6am every morning, you follow the black line day-after-day; it’s tedious. When it doesn’t come together in races it’s hard to keep your love and motivation for it.” The Bury St. Edmonds native continued that, “I came to a point at this time last year where I’d kind of decided that if 2014 didn’t go well then it might be time to move on to a new chapter in my life, even though that would have been really hard to accept.”
Pouring everything he had into training, Walker-Hebborn decided to focus his efforts on the 50 and 100 distances, which ended up serving him well in subsequent meets. He won golds in the 100m backstroke, as well as part of the 400 medley relay at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, plus two additional golds and a bronze at the Berlin-hosted 2014 European Championships.
The streak of successful performances now has Walker-Hebborn’s head in the right mindset on his road to Rio, which includes a stop at this month’s British Championships taking place at the London Aquatics Center. The competition also serves as the World Championships selection meet. In his words, Walker-Hebborn now feels, “The season’s going well, I’m feeling good and I’m heading into the summer knowing I couldn’t have done anymore in terms of my preparations.”